The Regional Transportation Alliance business coalition, a regional program of the Raleigh Chamber, knows how significant transportation and transit are to Triangle businesses, both for day-to-day operations and in talent recruitment. The RTA Summit Series is a great way for business leaders to share their ideas for transportation improvements and learn from others about how they are impacted by existing mobility issues. The three-day series took place from May 1-3 at locations in Durham, Raleigh, and RTP.
Series speakers included a lineup of RTA chairs and vice chairs. At the Raleigh session on May 2, hosted by Citrix, RTA Executive Director Joe Milazzo II opened the session by talking about recent transportation successes, including the allotment of $1 billion in new local funds for transit over the next 10 years, and 40 miles of new or enhanced freeway during that same timeframe. He also discussed how RDU has added 17 new nonstop destinations in the last five years alone.
Keith McDonald, the site lead for Credit Suisse’s Raleigh operations team and RTA vice chair of rapid research, spoke with the audience about possible funding solutions for roadways, given the unstable source of the fuel tax.
“If we want to maintain good, quality roads, how do we pay for it,” McDonald asked those in attendance.
He talked about the potential of charging a network access fee to drivers who register their vehicles, as an alternative to the state gas tax.
Maeve Gardner, manager of state government affairs with GlaxoSmithKline and RTA chair of legislation and policy, discussed with the audience the importance of finding new revenue-generating ideas to fund improvements at RDU International Airport.
“RDU is a phenomenal asset to this community,” said Gardner.
Then, Pete Marino, a partner with Smith Anderson Law Firm and RTA freeways chair, and Jim Beley, general manager of The Umstead Hotel and Spa and RTA chair of regional travel experience, opened the discussion on commuters’ overall travel experience in the Triangle.
“Freeways are a critical part of mobility,” said Marino. “But freeways can sometimes create a barrier within a community.” He discussed how some cities are considering freeway caps, which could be a structure or a park that would, in essence, provide a large land bridge over the top of a freeway as an enhanced way to keep communities connected beyond traditional bridge crossing connections.
Beley continued the discussion about the state of our roadways. “Our roads are the gateway to our area,” he said. “Sometimes that impression is not always what it could be, in terms of littering and the visibility of information. My business is tourism and travel, and I want the travelers coming in to our region to have the best experience.”
He also suggested improved lighting at interchanges so that people would feel more comfortable driving at night.
Next, those at the Summit Series focused on how to make transit more accessible to everyone. Richard Adams, senior vice president with Kimley-Horn and RTA vice chair of regional transit, and Brian Kubis, a senior financial analyst with Citrix and RTA vice chair of intercity higher speed rail, talked about the importance of making transit a more attractive option.
Attendees made a variety of suggestions and observations throughout the session based on the various presentations from RTA volunteers. On transit, for example, some participants suggested improving the appearance of buses, as well as the frequency and utility of service, and incentivizing the first few trips to get people familiar with taking transit.
Milazzo said the feedback from the three sessions would be compiled and RTA will put together a summary report on the series later this month, available at www.letsgetmoving.org/summitseries.
Thank you to all of the members and partners of RTA who are investing in the future of our mobility!